At the heart of the conflict dividing the Polish government and the independent trade union Solidarity is economic reform, a complex issue that has generated ideological dogfights on both sides about the shape and scope of contemplated changes.
For public consumption, ysolidarity is insisting on workers's self-management and the government is asserting it would never give up control over industrial enterprises. Behind the scenes, however, there are differing views.
Solidarity sees the issue of self-management and factory autonomy as the basis for any economic reform. But there are a variety of views on whether a Yugoslav-type system is applicable to a country such as Poland, particularly at a time of deepening economic downslide and increasing food shortages.
In the Communist Party camp, there are at least two groups. The more dogmatic elements insist that the state must retain absolute control over all enterprises. The moderate forces have aired the idea that a Yugoslav form of self-management could be applied to small enterprises while the state would retain full control over major industrial firms.
Behind government arguments are fears that workers' self-management would create economic decentralization of the country and bring about political decentralization as well. ythis would not only change the political shape of Poland but also would eliminate a huge cast of communist bureaucrats who now hold lucrative jobs. Government officials say that as many as 1 million would be affected.
ythe government's official stand was made clear this week by Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski who asserted that he had no intention of giving up control over enterprises. "Unless the state remains in control of enterprises it would not be able to carry out its functions and act in the national interest," he said.
Jaruzelski conceded that pressures for some form of self-management are increasing at the level of the factory floor. He said many able and "honest directors" as under worker pressure to leave their jobs. "This was unpermissible," he added.
In the Solidarity camp, on the other hand, differences on this issue have deepened as the independent movement approaches its first congress next month. So far, the union has exercised great authority simply by articulating public feelings against government policies. Now Solidarity must come up with its own ideas.
Since any reforms of this ravaged economy would demand new sacrifices from the Polish people, coming up with a constructive program may prove far more difficult. "We know very well that allprices must go up and up," said one Solidarity economist privately. "But we cannot say so publicly. "But we cannot say so publicly. yworkers back home would kick out their delegates who voted for higher prices without salary increases or some other forms of compensation."
In recent weeks, both sides have appeared more unyielding.
An increasingly assertive government has announced that prices of bread, flour and cereals would be sharply increased, but today postponed the implementation of the increases until Sept. 1. The government said that it would provide a 150 zloty (about $5) monthly compensation for individuals in the lowest pay brackets.
Solidarity has already served notice that it would agree to price increases only as a part of a comprehensive reform package in which it would have a say.
Since the return from the Soviet Union of Jaruzelski and party leader Stanislaw Kania a week ago, the government has been tougher on the union. The state prosecutor announced yesterday that there were about 80 instances of criminal investigation of or charges against union activists found in "flagrant violoation of legal norms.
Most of these cases involve union publications, pamphlets or alleged agitation. Although all publications here still have to be submitted to the censor for approval, authorities during the past year have turned a blind eye to publications issued in factories and offices.
The increasingly confrontational nature of the political struggle, coming against the background of food scarcities, has made the situation in the country tense. There are risks that even minor incidents could spark an upsurge of social unrest.
Illuminating in this respect was a report yesterday of an incident involving a policeman and three individuals in the small town of Smrzegom, in the coal mining region of Walbrzych. The three men were arrested allegedly on suspicion of theft and for disorderly behavior.
On the way to the police station, the three began calling for help. Subsequently a crowd of several hundred persons marched to the police station demanding their release. Police reinforcements were rushed into the area but the three men were freed.